But for the time being, what with no new franchises and only two relocations—last year there were six of the former, four of the latter—the owners are concentrating on emulating the Cosmos. It is a situation in which everyone applauds when someone makes a move. Spirits were high around the league two weeks ago when the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a successful team formerly dependent on doughty Britishers, signed the German star Gerd Muller for a reported annual salary of $400,000. While Muller is not a Pel� in either drawing power or virtuosity, he is very near the top of the world-class game and is the most important player to come into the league since Beckenbauer. Over the winter, the 35-year-old striker, who scored an amazing 365 goals in 427 games for Bayern Munich and has scored 68 goals in 62 National Team appearances, became disillusioned with his club. When it asked him to help out the defense, he resigned in disgust and declared his availability to the NASL.
Although he almost ranks with Beckenbauer, Muller may suffer in Fort Lauderdale. He scored the winning World Cup championship goal against Holland in 1974, but he must be served the ball accurately and often by fast-flying wing-men. The Cosmos have two such operatives (one of them an English international) to provide this service for Chinaglia, but the Strikers do not. Fort Lauderdale also accomplished the off-season's second-most-notable signing when it acquired Teofilo Cubillas, 29, the Peruvian striker who is fifth in alltime World Cup goals, and who was runner-up to Pel� as the 1970 World Cup MVP. He will get $350,000 for two years. Said Beau Rogers, the Strikers' executive vice-president and general manager, "That's about equal to three llamas and two Peruvian rugs."
The Strikers also have George Best, the much-publicized on-again, off-again goal scorer, although his availability is clouded because of contract problems. Fort Lauderdale's English coach, Ron Newman, is awed by all that has happened to his team. "It's pretty much mind-boggling," he says. "We've got to be right alongside the Cosmos. We'll certainly surprise the rest of the league. Our little team now has stature throughout the world."
Other teams in other ways were also going in for the international look. The New England Tea Men, backed by Lipton Tea's megabucks, have shucked an English look for a Portuguese one in deference to Massachusetts' half-million Portuguese-Americans, and San Diego hopes to sign two popular Mexican wingers in an effort to draw on the vast Mexican population of Southern California.
Except in poverty-level franchises, you can forget about the Americanization of the NASL. "I love the Americans in the game," says Dallas Tornado Coach Al Miller, who last season started more Americans than any club except Colorado which sometimes fielded as many as six. The Tornado average was four or five. But last year Dallas missed the playoff for the first time, and this season Miller will start a team of Brazilians, Argentinians, Portuguese and one standout German. "I have to win a championship," he says. "Americanization will have to wait. If I can make all these foreigners play together, we'll never be embarrassed by the Cosmos again."
One of Dallas' displaced American players managed to be philosophical about the situation. "At least the foreigners coming over here now are top players," said Glenn Myernick, "not guys who've lost so many steps at home that they can't compete. We're going to look at them, take what we can from their experience and skills, and soon we'll take over the league." But first the league will be trying to overtake the Cosmos.